POSTED: May 09 2016 21:05:29. By Keith Long - Missing 1979 Player from picture salfordonline

The article was spotted by Mark Lavery, a good friend of my younger brother Joe, from school days at St Ambrose Barlow RC. He tagged me and said "this looks like you Shielsy" and he was 'Spot On'. I have included the picture below for reference.

I recall being about 12-13 years old when playing for Beechfield FC down off Folly Lane. Stephen Cork (better known as Corky) was my best friend at school in those early days, and we shared the same passion for football. I recall the team being in its infancy and everyone coming together and learning to play as a team, with myself being perhaps the 'outsider' since I lived a couple of miles away. Although I did not know many of the players initially, they were a great bunch of lads and certainly had lots of camaraderie and enthusiasm for such a young/new team. I'd stay over at Corky's the night before and his Mum and Dad would have the most amazing Sunday dinner (of Pork and Crackling) waiting for us when we got back and cleaned up. Usually, we'd leave the bathroom covered in our muddy kit, along with all the remnants of the pitch which we'd pretty much covered ourselves in from head-to-toe. Poor Corky's Mum and Dad had to clean it all up, but they never moaned, only pleased to hear us chat away and recall all the trials and tribulations of the day and game we'd just played.

I distinctly remember all the training and matches primarily being on a Sunday morning, with a very early rise required for those away games too. The coaches always kept our morale high and we'd sing/chant along the way in the transit van and a few cars, ready to give it our all out on the pitch. Those games over the winter months were extremely hard, especially setting off as dawn broke and the hail/sleet began to fall upon us.

The Sunday morning matches would inevitably be cold and wet,with the pitches sometimes a bit of a quagmire, but we'd always play no matter what the conditions. Most vivid memories for me were those halt-time coach-talks in the cold and damp changing rooms, which in those days were merely a cold/damp and unlit steel shipping container at one end of the playing fields. We'd sometimes be a goal or two down and just needs a break to equal the scoreline, since some of our shots were unlucky (for us) saved by a great opposing goalkeeper. We never gave in and always played 100% to the final whistle, I recall that our drive, stamina and determination sometimes paid off against better/more experienced teams, where we achieved the wondrous feeling of winning a few games, These moments made it all worthwhile and the whole Beechfield team would be 'charged' and ready to train hard and attack the next team with even more 'commitment'.

On pitch, I usually played midfield, since I was a bit of a runner back then. Although perhaps one of the smallest players on the team, I could sprint off the mark quicker than most, plus run and run almost all of the game (as being the school cross-country champion for my year), which is perhaps why we always seemed to come-on strong in the second half of the match. I was not much of a goal scorer, but happy to tackle hard and keep on attacking the opposing players, gradually wearing them down. So-much-so, that I was proud to win the ball back on many occasions and run up the pitch to cross to one of our Forwards for a finishing goal by the team.

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This article from some 36 years ago certainly brought back lots of fond memories, and it helped me to recall some of the wonderful things which I shared with the team (Beechfield FC) in their first year, Unfortunately, I don't recall many of the team members, since they went to a different school to Corky and me, but what I do recount is the amazing team spirit and drive that this new aspiring team provided to a group of youngsters who just wanted to play football and be the best.

After playing for Beechfield FC, I became heavily involved into BMX racing in 1981-1982, competing in national BMX races across the Northwest.

As a father now to recent teenagers I certainly feel that my early days playing for Beechfield FC helped me to become more driven and work together as part of a dedicated team, to achieve the goals that we all set ourselves in any walk of life.

Antony Shiels (better known then as Shielsy by everyone)

Beechfield United Player

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